25 Different Tropical Aquarium Cichlids - Rare & Common
Cichlids are freshwater fish of the Cichlidae family, and there are more than 2000 species that have been scientifically described making them one of the most prominent vertebrate families. New species of Cichlids are discovered periodically, while many species still remain undescribed. Therefore, the exact number of these species is unknown, with estimates varying between 2000 to 3000.
Various cichlids, especially tilapia, are classed as a staple to many human diets, while others, such as the Cichla species, are esteemed game fish. This family also includes other popular aquarium fish that hobbyists retain; these include Oscars, Discus and Angelfish.
Cichlids have the most significant number of endangered species amongst vertebrate families, and they are mainly well known for having evolved quickly into many closely similar but morphologically distinct species.
Cichlids have deep bodies and one nostril (rather than the standard two) on each side of their head. The lateral line is intermittent, and their anal spines vary. Cichlids body shapes can vary from strongly laterally compressed species to species that are cylindrical and elongated. They usually have rounded tails, and although they are relatively large for aquarium fishes, they typically do not grow longer than around 30 cm. The dorsal and anal fins' rear edges are pointed in many species, and the pelvic fins are elongated. These fish also have a massive range of colours, size and patterns.
You will also need to consider what size Cichlids you wish to keep; for example, Dwarf Cichlids only grow up to 8 cm, so can therefore be kept in a normal-sized tank, whereas an Oscar can grow up to 45 cm and will require a huge aquarium. There is also their hardiness to think about; some Cichlids are very hardy and suitable for a beginner aquarist. In contrast, other Cichlids will need special care because of specific requirements and ideal for advanced and experienced aquarists.
Cichlids can mainly be found throughout Africa and South America. They also occur in Central America and Mexico, as well as the Rio Grande in South Texas and Madagascar. There are also several species in Israel, Lebanon and Syria in Southeast Asia and India and Sri Lanka. In Hawaii, Japan, Florida, and Northern Australia, wild populations of Cichlids have become entrenched as exotics.
Although many Cichlids are found in relatively shallow depths, you can also find several species in relatively deep waters. Cichlids are not often found in brackish or saltwater habitats; however, many species can endure brackish water for extended periods.
You can find Cichlids in a wide range of different habitats. Some species have specific needs and live only in a single, restricted habitat type. At the same time, other Cichlid species can survive in an immense range of different habitats.
Cichlids can be found in various warm freshwater bodies within their geographic range, including lakes, rivers, ponds, swamps, puddles and ditches. You will not find Cichlids at high altitudes.
Cichlids express an extensive range of social and reproductive behaviours. Some species prefer to live in large schools, while others develop territories and behave aggressively towards other fish. Many establish settlements but live close to their neighbours in a widely spaced school.
The level of aggression varies based on a particular species. Territorial males display more vivid and brighter colouration, while nonterritorial males present a dull-pale colouration.
Cichlids are highly active and can sense the littlest of movement in their surroundings. They are one of the fastest freshwater fish and are also skilled jumpers, so you will need to make sure you keep a close watch on them if you plan to house them in an open tank.
Some Cichlids species can begin to recognise who feeds them and often refuse to come out when unfamiliar people approach the tank.
There are so many cichlid species out there, and not all of them require the same water conditions and parameters. However, a majority of them come from slow running freshwater rivers, so it is advisable that you make sure that the water flow in their aquarium is slow.
Cichlids prefer water with an alkaline pH of around 7.0, maybe slightly higher, so it is advised that if you are keeping African Cichlids, they should have a stable pH of approximately 8.2 to 8.4. The species from all three lakes will appreciate this as they live in very hard water that contains many dissolved salts and minerals.
African Cichlids can have their aquariums decorated with shells and corals, unlike many other fish, which generally push the pH of a freshwater aquarium above a majority of fishes natural ranges.
Since African Cichlids are known to be aggressive and territorial, it would be better to keep them with fish of their own kind as there aren't many species of Cichlids that can live together in the same aquarium. However, some bottom-dwelling fish can make excellent tank mates providing they are aggressive and large enough to match the fast-paced aggression that they may face from the African cichlids.
Most other small and peaceful fish species, such as Tetras and Guppies, will not last long. With that being said, it is not advisable to have African Cichlids from closely related species together because they can produce unwanted hybrids.
The hardest Cichlids to house with other fish are African Cichlids such as peacocks, haps and Mbunas, and Central American species like Convicts, Jack Dempsey, Firemouths and Wolf Cichlids. It is not recommended that you keep Cichlids from Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi jointly because they thrive best in completely different water environments. However, if you intend on maintaining Dwarf or large South American Cichlids with tank mates, you will have far more success.
The males are territorial, so if you decide to keep multiple Cichlids together, make sure you use natural breaks such as plants to split up the aquarium to prevent them from fighting. African Cichlids are used to the rocky terrain that lakes offer; therefore, it might be beneficial to provide rocks in their aquariums.
You will also need to consider what size Cichlids you wish to keep; for example, Dwarf Cichlids only grow up to 8 cm, so can therefore be kept in a normal-sized tank, whereas an Oscar can grow up to 45 cm and will require a huge aquarium. There is also their hardiness to think about; some Cichlids are very hardy and suitable for a beginner aquarist. In contrast, other Cichlids will need special care because of specific requirements and will be ideal for advanced and experienced aquarists.
It would be best if you also noted that Cichlids could be easily spooked; therefore, placing your aquarium in a quiet place will be more beneficial for your fish. Cichlids are continually digging and uprooting plants, so if you wish to decorate your aquarium, make sure you use hardy plants such as java moss or similar.
Many Cichlids are primarily herbivores, feeding on plants and algae. Small animals, particularly invertabrates, are only a minor part of their diets. Other Cichlids are detrivores and eat organic material, called offal, where other Cichlids are predatory and eat little or no plant matter.
Some Cichlids are snail eaters, while some feeds on sponges. Several Cichlids feed on other fish, either in part or entirely. Some species are stealth predators that lunge from covering at passing small fish, while some species are open-water pursuance predators that chase down their prey.
Some Cichlids eat the eggs or fry of other species, in some rare cases ramming the heads of mouthbrooding species, forcing them to eject their young.
There are those that feed on scales and fins of other fishes, a behaviour known as lepidophagy and the death-mimicking behaviour of some species, which lay motionless, luring small fish to their side before an ambush.
This diversity of feeding behaviours has helped Cichlids to thrive and survive in varied habitats. Its pharyngeal teeth allow Cichlids to have so many feeding tactics because the jaws pick and hold food, while the pharyngeal teeth annihilate the prey.
Cichlids can mate either polygamously or monogamously. The reproduction system of an individual Cichlid species is not nauseously associated with its brooding system.
Most monogamous Cichlids are not mouth brooders; Gymnogeophagus, Spathodus, Tanganicodus and Chromidotilapia all place into or consist entirely of monogamous mouthbrooders. In contrast, numerous cave-spawning Cichlids are polygamous; these include many Nannacaram Lamprologus, Pelvicachromi and Apistogramma species.
A majority of adult male Cichlids exhibit a unique pattern of oval-shaped colour spots on their anal fins. These appearances, known as egg spots, help in the mouthbrooding tools of Cichlids. The egg spots consist of carotenoid-based colour cells, which signifies a cost to the organism when considering that fish cannot integrate their own carotenoids.
Males use the mimicry of egg spots for the fertilisation process. Mouthbrooding females lay eggs and immediately pick them up with their mouths. Over the course of millions of years, male Cichlids have developed egg spots to initiate the fertilisation process more efficiently.
When the females pick up their eggs into their mouth, the males rotate their anal fins, illuminating the egg spots on his tail. Ultimately, the female, believing that they are her eggs, places her mouth to the anal fin of the male, which is when he releases sperm into her mouth and fertilises the eggs. The natural colour of egg spots is either an orange, yellow or red inner circle, with a colourless ring surrounding it.
After fertilisation is complete, you will notice a distinct lump in the female fish's jaw where she is holding the eggs. The female will incubate the eggs and the fry after they've hatched for 2 to 3 weeks until the fry has grown to a point where they can better survive independently. The female Cichlid will not eat any food during this time.
It's essential to note that new mothers may either spit out or swallow her eggs, especially if stressed; This is normal, and she will improve with practice.
Whether the Cichlids are Central American Firemouths or Tanganyikan shell dwellers, the Cichlids that are not mouthbrooders are almost entirely pair-bonded egg layers. In these species, both the mother and the father look after the eggs and the fry, often dealing with potential predators fiercely.
Once a pair has bonded, they are likely to spend some time preparing the breeding cave or surface depending on the cichlid species. This will require digging, cleaning and rearranging the substrate to their liking.
Once the eggs have been laid, usually, the female will guard the eggs directly, often fanning her tail to keep a continuous gentle current floating over them. At the same time, the male becomes more aggressive to potential predators. Sometimes they share the responsibilities more equally.
With egg layers, the likelihood of fry surviving to adulthood in a community tank are even lower than that of mouthbrooders, although some will survive nevertheless.
Depending on the Cichlid species and possibly some of the larger and more aggressive Central American Cichlids, it may be essential to temporarily separate the male and female fish during the breeding process to prevent harassment. You could either remove the male to another tank or place a water-permeable barrier in the tank to physically separate them.
Frquently asked questions about the Cichlids
Are Cichlids hard to keep?
What is the lifespan of a Cichlid?
What size tank do cichlids need?
Why are my Cichlids so aggressive?
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